Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin's break up discussed by friends
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It’s A Hard Life remains most famous for its outrageously OTT video, but Freddie’s bandmate Brian May believes it is also one of his friend’s most beautiful compositions. There is a moment when the Queen frontman sings the iconic and heartfelt line, “Two lovers together, to love and live forever in each other’s hearts.” In the video, he is looking at the voluptuous and glamorous woman leaning over the balcony above him. This was Barbara Valentin, who shared two extraordinary years with Freddie in Munich. She remained close to him until the very end and was one of the few invited to his last ever birthday party.
This weekend marks the release of It’s A Hard Life in 1984. At the time, Freddie was already living in Munich. He had discovered the German city in 1979 when the band recorded the album The Game at the famous Musicland studios.
Freddie’s fame meant he increasingly struggled to find privacy in the UK at the same time as he had begun to explore his sexuality. Munich’s thriving gay scene offered him freedom and opportunity.
From 1983-1985 the star made Munich his home and even bought a flat with devoted new friend Barbara.
Busty blonde bombshell Barbara was notorious in Germany as the provocative star of saucy films. Freddie loved her outrageous character and his friends believed he had met his match.
His PA and close friend Peter Freestone said: “They had the most intense, loving relationship. I know one hundred percent they shared a bed on numerous occasions.”
Another friend, West End star Peter Straker, said: “I was told he just met this woman who was larger than life. Barbara was very outrageous. She was the queen of nudity.”
Royal Ballet star Wayne Sleep added: “Freddie was with a woman. So I thought.’There you go. He’s not predictable at all, is he, this boy?.’”
Another friend said: “It was almost like he enjoyed being with someone who had a wilder reputation than him.
SCROLL DOWN FOR A VIDEO GALLERY OF FREDDIE AND BARBARA TOGETHER
Many years later, Barbara’s daughter Minki Reichardt said: “I know they were in love. I know that my mother was in love with him because she said so.
“I think their relationship was very close and very intense. They really liked the conflict. They were talking, shouting, arguing, and then they were in their arms again, it was always very lively. I think Freddie was the love of her life.”
Barbara’s German friend Elisabeth Volkmann went even further: “Freddie loved Barbara. Barbara loved him. And it was a big love between both. If he wouldn’t be homosexual, maybe they are married.”
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Except, of course, Freddie was homosexual. While Wayne Sleep believed Freddie had slept with Barbara. He certainly spent nights with her at her apartment on Stollberg Strasse. Peter Freestone remains a little more coy on the subject.
He added: “I wasn’t sitting in the room. I can’t tell you yes or no if sex happened. If it had, Freddie could not have been quiet about it.”
In fact, for most of those two years in Munich, Freddie was also in a relationship with local restauranteur Winnie Kirschberger, despite the fact that neither spoke the other’s language.
Whatever her feelings for Freddie, Barbara was under no illusion about his sexuality. Like Mary before her, Barbara loved and supported the star and, in this case, provided even more vital and personal help to the men’s relationship.
Freestone said: “it was sometimes comical to watch the arguments happening… Both Freddie and Winnie would be screaming at Barbara who had to do her best to try to sort out the jumbled emotions.”
It was an intense period in Freddie’s life but the star was beginning to feel homesick and Mary had finally completed all the renovations to his new London house, One Garden Lodge, in Kensington.
The tumultuous relationship with Winnie was fizzling out and a new man from London, Jim Hutton, was on the scene. Freddie never actually moved into the flat he bought with Barbara and returned to the UK. Although he split up with Winnie, Freddie remained close to Barbara for the rest of his life and she flew over to see him one last time in 1990.
In September 1990, Freddie threw his last ever birthday bash, a very smart formal dinner. The following year he would be far too ill.
His close friend Dave Clarke, who was the man by his side when he died, recalled a very intimate night, filled with those Freddie loved most, including Barbara, who sat either side of him with Mary.
Clarke said: “On his last birthday, he just invited 30 of his closest friends and there were 30 different courses, done by his personal chef, Joe Fanelli, and 30 different types of wine to go with each course.”
Freddie died the following November. Barbara herself passed away from a stroke on February 22, 2002.
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